News & Resources

New Jersey school, town weighing background screening options

Mar 14, 2011 Matt Roesly

Delving into a job candidate's background is an important step for any school, especially when it comes to teachers. Two institutions in New Jersey are now considering whether to extend mandatory background screening to volunteers and coaches. According to the Gloucester Times, the Woodbury Board of Education is considering whether or not to mandate background screening for volunteers. Now, the school is grappling with what kind of measures should be taken and who exactly should be screened. The Times reports that the Board of Education was set to pass the measure, but objections were voiced by parents and a number of volunteers who believe the impending measure requires more review. Woodbury superintendent Joe Jones told the paper that he began considering background screening, including routine monthly checks and fingerprint scans, in the spring of 2010. However, consideration of the measure hit a snag when Jones found out New Jersey law mandates that the district pays each check, not the volunteer, as Jones originally desired. The news source reports that each check costs $35, which has the potential to significantly increase cost for the district. That change led to additional objections by parents. The last vote taken resulted in a 5-4 split among board members. "There may, unfortunately, be parents who don't want to be bothered," Amy Butler, vice president of the Home and School Association at the Walnut Street School, told the Times. "And that concerns me. It's very difficult for us sometimes to get people to volunteer. It could hurt us." Similar consideration is underway in neighboring Hunterdon County, where officials in Union Township are debating whether or not to institute background screening for coaches, according to the Hunterdon County Democrat. Union Township Mayor Bill Bischoff told the source that such a plan was under consideration after he heard insurance companies required background screening for coaches. Currently, there is no such requirement on the books. While no specific event touched off Bischoff's interest, he acknowledged that ensuring security and proper character was an important detail given coaches' one-on-one work with children. In a town meeting on March 2, town officials and those in attendance heard from a background screening industry representative. Town officials have stated that a red flag will not lead to the immediate dismissal of an applicant. He or she will have the ability to appeal, during which time the nature of the background check would become public record.